The Department offers instruction in the languages, literatures, linguistics and cultures of China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, South Asia and Southeast Asia. This includes survey courses in traditional and modern Chinese and Japanese literature, Chinese, Japanese and Korean civilization, courses in philosophy, film and history of East Asia, courses in literatures and cultures of South and Southeast Asia, and a sequence of courses on Buddhism in China, India, Japan, and Tibet. The Department offers an undergraduate concentration in Asian Studies. Undergraduates are encouraged to consult departmental advisors about appropriate electives, about introducing an Asian component into a concentration plan focused in another department, as well as about developing a plan of study leading to a concentration in Asian Studies.

The Department's core courses in the modern languages of East, South and Southeast Asia are designed to develop proficiency in the basic skills of speaking, oral comprehension, reading and writing. To speed students' progress toward a working knowledge of the languages, intensive work in Chinese, Japanese, and sometimes Korean and Hindi are offered during the summer. (Students must apply for admission to intensive courses through the Summer Language Institute.)

The faculty and staff in the Department reserve the right to require students with previous background in an Asian language to take a placement test. Students will be placed in language classes according to the Department's best assessment of the student's language skill and previous training. The Department's first-year language courses are designed for students with minimal or no previous exposure to the language in question. Students having previous experience with a language may be required to begin study at a higher level of instruction.